Reading of the Week: Cannabis for Mood Disorders – the New CJP Paper; Also, Dr. Insel on Mental Health (QT) and Transgender Adolescents & Suicidality (CMAJ)

From the Editor

He smokes before bed to help with sleep; she finds that the edibles take an edge off from her lows.

Our patients routinely tell us about the benefits of cannabis for mood disorders. But is there any evidence in the literature? In the first selection from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Smadar V. Tourjman (of the Université de Montréal) and her co-authors consider that question with a systematic review, drawing on data from 56 studies, focused on bipolar and major depressive disorders, for a CANMAT task force report. They conclude: “cannabis use is associated with worsened course and functioning of bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In this week’s second selection, we look at new Quick Takes podcast interview with Dr. Thomas Insel (of the Steinberg Institute). Dr. Insel, a psychiatrist and former director of NIMH, speaks about the progress in neuroscience but the need for mental health reform. “We must think about more than just the classic medical model borrowed from infectious disease: simple bug, simple drug.”

Finally, in the third selection, Mila Kingsbury (of the University of Ottawa) and her co-authors consider the risk of suicidality among trangender and sexual minority adolescents; they draw from a nationally representative, cross-sectional survey. “Gender and sexual minority adolescents, particularly those who identify as transgender and gender-nonconforming, appear to be at greater risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt than their cisgender and heterosexual peers.”

There will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Mental Health Literacy & Skills for Students – the New CJP Paper; Also, Benzodiazepine Use and the Latest Mental Health Headlines

From the Editor

Postsecondary education can be incredibly stressful for students – and, not surprisingly, mental health problems may surface. Is it possible to inform (and thus empower) students with a simple intervention?

In the first selection, Yifeng Wei (of the University of Alberta) and her co-authors consider a trial of Transitions, a program that includes both mental health literacy and comprehensive life skills resources “for those transitioning from secondary to postsecondary education.” In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, they describe a study involving nearly 2 400 students across five institutions. “Students in the intervention significantly improved mental health knowledge, decreased stigma against mental illness, increased positive attitudes toward help-seeking, improved help-seeking behaviours, and decreased perceived stress compared to the control group.” We review the paper.

Beautiful campus – and a place to reduce stigma?

In the second selection, Christine Timko (of Stanford University) and her co-authors consider benzodiazepine use. In a new Psychiatric Services paper, they note: “This study’s findings suggest that challenges remain in discontinuing long-term benzodiazepine use among patients who are older than 45 years, White, taking higher doses for longer, and diagnosed as having anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or psychosis.”

And finally, in a new section, we consider some recent news items relevant to those of us in mental health care. Our aim: not simply to draw from interesting reports, but to include those that our patients may read and bring up. This week: the focus (and TikTok videos) on the vagus nerve, the Freud who hated Freud, and ADHD in adults.

DG

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Reading of the Week: No Better Than Placebo? Debating Antidepressants and ECT, with Papers from Psychological Medicine

From the Editor

Antidepressants don’t work. Medications fail to address the real cause of depression. ECT is basically a placebo.

These statements are controversial, but they are mentioned often – including by some of our patients. But what does the literature say about depression management? This week, we look at the debate over antidepressants and ECT, drawing on two recent papers from Psychological Medicine.

In the first selection, John Read (of the University of East London) and Dr. Joanna Moncrieff (of University College) argue that our approach to depression is flawed. In a longer paper that draws on more than 120 references, they challenge basic assumptions about mental health care, arguing against antidepressants and ECT. They advocate for an alternative: “Understanding depression and anxiety as emotional reactions to life circumstances, rather than the manifestations of supposed brain pathology, demands a combination of political action and common sense.”

Were Ali and Frazier having a fight over depression management?

In the other selection, Dr. Carmine M. Pariante (of the King’s College London) agrees to disagree. In a Psychological Medicine paper, he responds. “I have written a piece that tries to put together their point of view with the available evidence, while acknowledging the complexity of the debate.” 

DG

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Reading of the Week: Suicide & Physicians – the New CJP Paper; Also, Cannabis and Psychiatry (BJP) and Tom Insel on Mental Health Care (Atlantic)

From the Editor

Despite what we may wish to believe, physicians are mortal. We can develop illnesses – even mental disorders. And some (too many) suicide. Past studies have shown that doctors die by suicide more than the general population. But the data wasn’t Canadian.

In the first selection, Dr. Manish M. Sood (of the University of Ottawa) and his co-authors consider suicide by Canadian physicians. In a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry paper, they do a population-based, retrospective cohort study drawing on more than a decade and a half of data. They write: “Physicians in Ontario are at a similar risk of suicide deaths and a lower risk of self-harm requiring health care relative to nonphysicians.” We look at the paper.

In the second selection, Dr. Julia Jiyeon Woo (of McMaster University) and her co-authors review cannabis from the perspectives of clinicians and patients. In a new British Journal of Psychiatry paper, they note: “This growing discrepancy between clinicians’ and patients’ perspectives on cannabinoids can be extremely damaging to the therapeutic alliance.” They offer practical suggestions.

And in the third selection, Dr. Thomas Insel (of the Steinberg Institute) considers what’s right and what’s wrong with mental health care. As the director of NIMH, he oversaw $20 billion of funding; in his new book, excerpted in the pages of The Atlantic, he calls for mental health reform. He writes: “There are only two kinds of families in America: those who are struggling with mental illness and those who are not struggling with mental illness yet. To ensure that we serve all families well, we don’t necessarily need to know more to do better.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Screen Time and Kids’ Mental Health – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Carol Smith on Her Grief (Wash Post)

From the Editor

Gaming. Apps. Streaming videos.

Children today have endless options at their fingertips, allowing them to entertain themselves for hours – which means less time for reading, playing, and physical activity. What effect does this have on their mental health? That question has sparked much debate: some argue that screen time is inherently problematic while others feel that it opens doors for creativity and connection to others. But what does the literature say? 

In the first selection, Rachel Eirich (of the University of Calgary) and her co-authors consider screen time and behavioural problems in children with a new systematic review and meta-analysis, just published in JAMA Psychiatry. Pulling together 87 studies, they focus on several variables. The big finding? “This study found small but significant correlations between screen time and children’s internalizing and externalizing behavior problems.” We look at the study.

And in the second selection, continuing our consideration of the first update to the DSM series in nine years, journalist Carol Smith mulls DSM-5-TR and the new diagnosis of prolonged grief disorder. In The Washington Post, she writes about her personal experience with grief: she lost her son when he was just 7. “I never thought to ask for help. I wish I had.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Lived Experience & Psychosis – the New World Psych Paper; Also, the Evidence for Cannabis (QT) and Bob Bell on Psychotherapy (Globe)

From the Editor

“Something as basic as grocery shopping was both frightening and overwhelming for me. I remember my mom taking me along to do grocery shopping as a form of rehabilitation… Everything seemed so difficult.”

So comments a patient on the experience of a relapse of psychosis.

Typically, we describe psychosis with lists of symptoms. But how do patients understand these experiences? In a new World Psychiatry paper, Dr. Paolo Fusar-Poli (of King’s College) and his co-authors attempt to answer this question with a “bottom-up” approach. As they explain: “To our best knowledge, there are no recent studies that have successfully adopted a bottom-up approach (i.e., from lived experience to theory), whereby individuals with the lived experience of psychosis (i.e., experts by experience) primarily select the subjective themes and then discuss them with academics to advance broader knowledge.” We discuss their paper.

In the second selection, we consider a new Quick Takes podcast. Dr. Kevin Hill (of Harvard University) reviews the cannabis literature and weighs the evidence. He notes the hazards of CBD, the lack of evidence for cannabis and sleep, and his fondness for the Chicago Bears. “There are very strong proponents for cannabis and there are people who are entirely sceptical about it. And the answers to a lot of these questions are somewhere in the middle.”

Finally, in the third selection, Dr. Robert Bell (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors advocate for the expansion of public health care to cover psychotherapy. Dr. Bell, who is a former Deputy Minister of Health of Ontario, makes a clear case drawing on international examples. “Canadians understand that good health requires mental-health support, and co-ordinated investment in mental-health treatment would pay dividends in reducing the impact of mental-health disability on the economy.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Exercise & Depression – the New JAMA Psychiatry Paper; Also, Passes & Inpatients (CJP) and Dr. Khadilkar on Suicide (JAMA Neuro)

From the Editor

We often tell our patients about the importance of exercise. But how much exercise? And is this advice really evidence based?

In the first selection from JAMA Psychiatry, Matthew Pearce (of the University of Cambridge) and his co-authors consider exercise and depression with a systematic review and meta-analysis, drawing on data from more than 190 000 people. They conclude: “This systematic review and meta-analysis of associations between physical activity and depression suggests significant mental health benefits from being physically active, even at levels below the public health recommendations.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, we look at a new research letter by Natalia Docteur (of the Sunnybrook Research Institute) and her co-authors. In The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, they consider passes for inpatients, wondering about the effect on length of stay and re-admissions. Interestingly, they conclude: “Overall, passes were associated with poorer post-discharge outcomes including prolonged length of stay and increased psychiatric readmissions.”

Finally, in the third selection, Dr. Amole Khadilkar (of Indigenous Services Canada) writes about his mental health problems. In a deeply personal essay, he notes the challenges of residency and warns against the culture of stoicism. “This is an important lesson to anyone who may be contemplating suicide during what seems like an irreversibly hopeless point in their life. You never know what the next day, the next month, or the next year may bring.”

Please note that there will be no Reading next week.

DG


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Reading of the Week: Tailoring CBT for Black Women – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Meds & Transgender Individuals

From the Editor

The story is too familiar: Black women are more likely to have insomnia, and yet less likely to receive the needed care. What can be done? That question speaks to the larger issue of equity.

In the first selection from JAMA Psychiatry, Eric S. Zhou (of Harvard University) and his co-authors offer a culturally tailored form of CBT-insomnia for Black women. They designed an elegant, three-armed RCT, working with several people, including – yes – a Black woman with insomnia. They find: “Participants were more likely to complete the full intervention if they received the tailored program, with intervention completion associated with greater insomnia improvement.” We consider the paper and its implications.

CBT-I aims to help everyone sleep like lambs

In the second selection, we look at a new paper by Dr. Jack L. Turban (of Stanford University) and his co-authors. In JAMA Psychiatry, they write: “Transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people unfortunately experience high rates of psychiatric morbidity, and their psychopharmacologic needs can be unique when compared with those of cisgender people.” They offer practical suggestions.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Equity & Mental Health Care – Post-Partum Follow Up After ED Visits (Lancet Psych) and Race and Prescribing (Psych Services)

From the Editor

We often speak of the challenges patients face in accessing mental health care. But, of course, such challenges may vary greatly, depending on demographics – think rural versus urban, young versus older, White versus non-White. How equitable is care? This week, we look at two new papers; one draws on Canadian data while the other on American. And though the studies are different, they point in a similar direction: unique populations face significant challenges accessing care.

In the first selection, Dr. Lucy C. Barker (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors consider follow-up after an ED visit for patients in the post-partum period. In a new Lancet Psychiatry paper, they drew on Ontario databases, with more than 12 000 visits analyzed. They write: “Fewer than half of emergency department visits for a psychiatric reason in the post-partum period were followed by timely outpatient care, with social-determinants-of-health-based disparities in access to care.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Jocelyn E. Remmert (of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) and her co-authors consider depression care and race. In a new Psychiatric Services paper, they look at antidepressant prescribing, finding big differences between White and Black veterans. “Among veterans, Black patients were almost two times less likely than White patients to have an antidepressant prescription, even after the analyses controlled for depression symptoms, demographic characteristics, psychosocial variables, and other clinical symptoms.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cool but Useful? VR Therapy for Psychosis; Also, Preventing Child Abuse (QT) and Renaming Schizophrenia (Lancet Psych)

From the Editor

Asking for a coffee. Passing strangers on a bus. Making eye contact at a grocery store. These tasks don’t seem particularly daunting but for those with major mental illness, they can be deeply unsettling. Some are left homebound.

In this week’s first selection, we look at a new Lancet Psychiatry paper by Daniel Freeman (of Oxford University) and his co-authors; in it, they detail an intervention where participants work through several tasks, like the ones named above. The coolness factor? It’s done through virtual reality (or VR). They find: “Automated VR therapy led to significant reductions in anxious avoidance of, and distress in, everyday situations compared with usual care alone.” We consider the paper and the larger implications.

Passing strangers on a bus: one of several tasks in gameChange

In the second selection, we weigh prevention in mental health care. Ainslie Heasman (of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health) joins me for a Quick Takes podcast interview. We discuss Talking for Change, which aims to prevent child sexual abuse with evidence-based interventions focused on high-risk populations – that is, “moving prevention upstream” in the words of the psychologist.

Finally, in the third selection, Dr. Bruce M. Cohen (of Harvard University) and his co-authors consider psychiatric terms, noting that some are outdated. In a Lancet Psychiatry paper, they discuss schizophrenia and personality disorders. They write: “Any label can stigmatise, and there are no perfect terms, but that should not prevent changing to better ones. Words communicate how we conceptualise a disorder.”

DG

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